Turkey and the United States are launching a new working group to draft stronger measures, including a possible no-fly zone, in response to the deteriorating situation in Syria, media reports said Saturday.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been in Turkey to consult with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu about possible humanitarian or military intervention on behalf of the Syrian rebels, according to Reuters. The Free Syrian Army has been pleading for the international community to institute a no-fly zone as it did during a similar rebellion in Libya last year, but the U.S. and its allies had not publicly proposed such an action until Saturday. Clinton said the institution of a no-fly zone over regions controlled by the Free Syrian Army needed "great in-depth analysis" at this time.
The Turkish-American task force will begin "operational planning," Clinton said, including responses to a potential "horrible event" of the Syrian regime deploying chemical weapons against the rebels or foreign forces, the Associated Press reported. The Syrian government raised the specter of a chemical weapons attack in the event of foreign military intervention. Beyond a possible no-fly zone, Turkey and the U.S. are considering setting up "safe zones" in Syria to protect civilians displaced by the conflict.
The Free Syrian Army is believed to be receiving arms and support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Reuters reported, while Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah are aligned with the Assad regime. The U.S. and U.K. have promised to provide non-military assistance to the rebels.
The relationship between Turkey and Syria has deteriorated sharply in recent months following the crash of a Turkish fighter jet. The Syrian military claimed responsibility for shooting down the jet, a claim backed by the Turks. But the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that Turkish investigators have found no evidence that the plan was shot down and instead that it may have crashed as a result of mechanical failures.